by Mark Ford
The airwaves are filled with endless reporting on the Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman case. It is my conjecture that nothing has penetrated the nation’s psyche like this tragedy has, at least since the O. J. Simpson trial. Reactions have been strong and range from those who feel the acquittal was a gross act of injustice to others who feel “finally justice has prevailed.” It is my best guess that while most have their own opinions on this matter, their deeper grief is over the fact that a young man is dead, and it all could have been avoided. What if George Zimmerman would have stayed in his car and let the police handle it? What if these two young men had laid aside whatever was driving them at the moment and had a civil conversation?
I know these sound like “Pollyanna” questions rooted in naivety and ignorance, but, “What if?” I am deeply concerned that frustration with the legal system and a lack of trust in each other will cause the shouting to become louder and the chasm preventing civil community conversations in the public square will be widened.
I had an incident happen this past week that gave me a taste of how innocent things can escalate to violence. I had just finished a bike ride, and my wife had completed a walk around the neighborhood. When we finally reconnected, Janna said that while she was walking she saw an old trunk placed on the curb due to the flooding that filled basements last week. She asked me if I would go with her to retrieve it, as it was obviously headed for the landfill. It was our understanding that stuff placed on the devil strip is to be discarded and usually the owners welcome someone taking it off their hands. That is what we do when we no longer want an item. We place it near the curb, and it always warms our heart when our trash becomes someone else’s treasure.
So we hopped into the car and went to load the discarded treasure. Just about the time I had placed it in our trunk, this man came storming around the corner screaming at us. I won’t repeat what he said because it would dignify his rancor. But let me assure you, expletives were used and a demand to place the trunk back on the devil strip and leave was communicated loud and clear. At first Janna and I were dumbfounded because he was essentially accusing us of stealing. He made sure we knew that we had broken the “scavenger law” and that he knew we were going to “take it and sell it.” Well, the scavenger law was a new one for us and, as a matter of fact, we were going to give it to our daughter-in-law who collects old chests.
We tried to express our intent, but he would have nothing of it. He screamed, “I don’t care about your story. GET OUT NOW!” Well, we did because we really didn’t know what he might do, and it was obvious nothing was going to cool him down. I replaced the trunk on the strip, smiled, said “Have a nice day” and left. We had no sooner arrived back home when a police car pulled up and rang our doorbell. I answered the door and the officer smiled and said, “I’m looking for some very awful people.” Fortunately, the officer was gracious and shared that he was required to follow up the call from this individual, who had taken our license plate number and turned us in. I could just see the front page of the Beacon Journal the next day – “Love Akron’s Executive Director Arrested for Scavenging”.
Let me get to the point. I can see how simple, innocent actions can escalate into “push and shove.” In the Martin/Zimmerman incident, neither seemed willing to back off; rather, they both “stood their ground” and the rest is now history, a sad, tragic history at that.
Right now our nation is in what I call an “uncivil war”. Immigration, same-sex marriage and race relations are just three hot potatoes in the public’s hands. I want to use this opportunity to call people of faith and goodwill to be peacemakers. This is not the time to use our muscles or to shout questions. Instead, we need to use our minds and hearts to find answers. It is time we lower our voices, bow our knees and ask God Almighty to come and heal the Divided States of America.
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